My girl friend and I are both 67 years old and are practicing Catholics. We're both widowed and are free to marry. We were each married to our deceased spouses for a long and fully know what we will be doing. We've been widowed for 9 and 4 years, respectively. Not wanting to go through the trouble and expense, etc. of a church wedding is there some way we could receive the sacrament of matrimony if we eloped?
As you know, the Catholic Church has a policy that is rarely broken; the 'why' in your question is answered by canon law which states that a wedding must take place in a "house of God". In most locations, that will be interpreted as being one of the churches in your diocese. In some extraordinary cases, your Bishop could theoretically approve an alternate setting but that will usually be reserved for only those pressing cases when due to infirmity or some other special circumstance, holding the wedding in a church is not feasible.
That said, a church wedding needn't be a lot of expense or fuss. Many parishes will schedule marriages after mass for just you and a few close family members. Of course, there will be a slight expense but even that could be waived by your pastor if you can convince him that is a good idea. Have you spoken to your pastor about your desire to avoid the fuss and expense? He may be very understanding of your point of view.
I'm curious, does your fiancée also desire to 'elope' or would she enjoy the church wedding? Also, have I responded to the question you'd like answered?
Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
National Certified Counselor #267299
AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist